Solon wants PH to relax rice importation rules to ensure adequate supply
MANILA, Philippines – Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda is urging the government to relax rules on rice importation and secure commitments from other countries to avoid a rice shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Salceda explained on Wednesday that these moves — while sustaining the local production of rice — would be necessary as it was uncertain if the Philippines could import rice from Vietnam and Thailand.
Salceda said that Vietnam, the world’s third largest exporter of rice, banned export rice deals to secure its domestic supply, while Thailand was forced by drought to scale down exports from 10 million metric tons to just 8 million metric tons.
“Secure commitments for adequate supply from supplier countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, while also sustaining support for local production through programs such as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and the National Rice Program,” he said in a paper about possible threats to rice supply while areas are still under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“Relax rules and regulations on rice importation. Consolidate small import orders through the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC),” he added.
In terms of the local rice supply, Salceda suggested that both the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry ensure the movement of the rice supply, along with materials and equipment that would be needed for rice production.
He also asked that workers involved in the rice supply chain — from farmers to those who deliver the grains to warehouses — be afforded the permits to move through the ECQ.
Salceda made the recommendations after reports surfaced that some of the trucks intended to deliver rice at the National Food Authority warehouse in Malolos, Bulacan, were held up at quarantine checkpoints.
“The DA and the DTI must monitor the strict implementation of their respective agencies’ issuances that the flow of rice and other essential commodities – as well as the necessary inputs to produce and process these commodities, such as fertilizers and pesticides – should remain unhampered,” Salceda noted.
“Ensure that the labor force across the rice supply chain (from farmers, to millworkers, to drivers of transport) are able to work and are conferred the privileges granted to those who work in essential services,” he added.
As the staple food of Filipinos, rice is considered a basic commodity in most households. According to Salceda, rice prices, especially in the National Capital Region, have already increased by around P3.00 per kilogram.
The ECQ was placed over Luzon due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. However, in the early part of the lockdown, food supply transporters faced difficulty due to the numerous checkpoints near Metro Manila’s borders.
As of Wednesday, the Department of Health has confirmed 5,453 COVID-19 patients — 349 of whom have died and 353 have recovered.
Worldwide, over 1.98 million individuals have been infected, while 126,834 have died from the disease and 484,109 have recovered from it.
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